Re: RARA-AVIS: Umberto Eco on Spillane

Etienne Borgers (
Wed, 22 Dec 1999 02:23:49 -0800 (PST)

--- James Rogers <> wrote:
> I pass this on as a curiosity:
> ''When I translated a book, especially hard-boiled
> detective novels, like
> those by Mickey Spillane, from English into Italian,
> I often had to do a
> parody of Italian detective novels to get the right
> tone.
> "I could not do a literal translation of slang like
> 'Mr. Big,' or have the
> detective say to a cab driver, 'Take me downtown.'
> Italian readers would
> think that the American city was built like
> Florence, partly on a hill,
> with an upper and lower town. - Umberto Eco
  Well, Umberto must be joking! Maybe that was all said with tongue in cheek? And could be detected by the context (?) of this declaration.

First, I cannot believe UE will only translate the english text by a *literal* equivalent for each word: downtown? could be easily translated by a word meaning central town, commercial district..etc

I know that some English translation of some of his essays did not satisfy him and he started to translate them later by himself, with the help of a specialist... and he discovered that he wrote finally something different in meaning in the second language, and continued to develop it directly in English - finally he translated this one back to Italian as it was a totally different work, and now with another title!

As you know, UE is not only a literary critic but also a specialist in semiotics, applied to aesthetics and... language. So, I guess the declaration was tinted with some humor.

Anyway, the Italian language is the best to express shortly what translation is all about:
"Traduttore, traditore!" (translator, traitor!)

Especially true for lit and even more so for pop lit!

Finally: Happy Birthday, list! And a very good Season's Holiday to all of you.

Y2K seems to promise to be really HB thanks to a bunch of old computer neirds, now mostly retreated as multimillionaires, and whom never gave a damn for the consequences of their past behavior.

So, stay tuned... and be prepared to take a peek on globalisation of chaos during the coming months.

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries

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